Founders of WeCounsel-an online network that will allow patients to connect with therapists via videoconference-have completed The Company Lab’s 100-day business accelerator, secured additional funding from Mozilla Ignite and sealed a development deal with Blacksnow Media.
Now, the team is ready to start alpha testing their product.
The fully featured product is on schedule to be released in July, and on March 6, mental health professionals can register to use WeCounsel.
“What we want to do is get the product in our customers’ hands as fast as possible,” Riley Draper, UTC student and WeCounsel co-founder, said. “That way, when July rolls around, we won’t have built any features that they won’t love. So, they will have every incentive to use the product, and it will bring them a lot of value.”
After the first free month, mental health professionals can stay in the network, getting some features for free and others for a fee.
“We have a similar business model to Spotify-it’s called a premium model,” Draper said. “So, the users in our network will have access to certain features free, and they will always be free, and then they will pay a premium for some of the other features.”
Draper, University of Georgia student Josh Goldberg and University of South Carolina student Harrison Tyner formed their business in the summer of 2011.
WeCounsel is HIPAA-compliant and uses the cloud to connect mental health providers with patients and colleagues online, which can make seeking treatment more convenient, Draper said.
Fifteen million Americans seek therapy for the first time each year, he also said, according to Nooga.com archives.
Recent mass shootings have brought increased attention to mental health issues, and according to ABC News, one in five Americans experienced some sort of mental illness in 2010.
But a 2009 study from the American Psychological Association found that only 4 percent of Americans used therapy to combat stress.
Users will be able to search for area therapists, and patients pay the mental health professional.
WeCounsel will make a profit by charging for the premium services.
“More important than the money is the fact that Mozilla validated something we’re working on,” Draper said. “To be a Mozilla Ignite team is far more exciting.”
And now, the WeCounsel team is planning to participate in Gig Tank 2, Draper said.
The team can use the gig to conduct research about how the high-speed Internet can make counseling sessions more efficient, he also said.
For the WeCounsel team, one of the most valuable parts of the business development process has been the mentorship, Draper said.
Mike Bradshaw, entrepreneur-in-residence at The Company Lab, said the budding businessmen have matured throughout the mentorship process.
“They engage in open and honest, bare-knuckle conversations that can be difficult for many entrepreneurs,” Bradshaw said.
And the product they have created fills a need, solves a problem and capitalizes on technology, he said.
And conditions are favorable for the product’s success, Bradshaw said.
“For example, videoconferencing is in a growth phase after years of development; people are more open to seeking treatment for emotional issues,” he said via email. “The need is real, as it’s clear that depression and related conditions make it hard to get out of the house for many; insurance policies are paying better, and regulations are requiring payment on an equal basis to other medical conditions.”